Tougher police tactics against criminal moped riders have significantly reduced the number of smash-and-grab crimes committed in London, but also pushed criminal gangs into the suburbs, new data suggests.
How common are moped attacks?
Moped crime has posed a growing threat in UK cities in recent years, with the number of offences in London alone rising from 827 in 2012 to more than 23,000 in 2017.
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Comedian Michael McIntyre, finance pundit Martin Lewis and even Home Secretary Sajid Javid are among recent high-profile victims of moped-riding thieves.
Easy-to-steal scooters and the growing market for stolen mobile phones have been cited as two factors behind the crime wave.
What is the police response?
The surge in moped-related crime prompted the Metropolitan Police to adopt more aggressive tactics. “These include providing officers with a special marking spray to fire at suspects, using remote-controlled spikes to burst the tyres of bikes, and using police cars to knock suspects off their bikes,” says The Guardian.
While Prime Minister Theresa May has backed the ramming tactic, it appears to be legally dubious, with one officer potentially facing criminal charges after knocking a teenager off a moped last year, reports the BBC.
Nevertheless, Scotland Yard has recorded a 36% fall in moped-enabled crime in the past year. This has seen the number of snatch thefts, knifepoint muggings, acid attacks and smash-and-grab raids, fall to 12,419 in the twelve months to October.
“But as the crime has almost vanished in some boroughs, others on the outskirts of the city have experienced increases of more than 700%,” data obtained by The Times suggests.
While central London boroughs such as Islington, Hackney and Westminster have recorded a drastic drop in moped crime, in suburban areas, such as Harrow and Brent, incidents have quadrupled. It has also seen an increase in incidents recorded outside of London in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham.
Ramped-up police tactics may have led to a dramatic fall in the number of crimes committed, but they have only led to a 1% increase in the proportion of cases that led to a charge or court summons.
What can the public do?
David Videcette, a former Metropolitan Police counter-terror detective, took to Twitter this summer to offer tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
“Vary your routine,” he writes. “Plan ahead. Not planning for these sorts of events is why we become easy targets. Different routes to and from home are a good idea. Are you being watched/followed?”
If you do become a victim, or a witness, to a moped offence, Videcette recommends looking out for distinguishing features on the mugger or moped. “We want to see makes of clothing. The attackers eyes. Distinctive marks or features on the moped, scratches, so we can link to the scene,” Videcette advises.
This has been made easier by the police decision to use a marking spray to help them to identify culprits at a later stage. This appears to have paid off, as cases where no suspect is identified have fallen from 92% to 82% in the past year.
Kirsty Henderson, director of Personal Safety London, which provides self-defence training, has also shared her tips.
Her main piece of advice is not to listen to music or use phones when on the move. “It means you are in a bubble,” she told the BBC.
Henderson recommends popping into a shop or cafe to take calls and check messages.
Scotland Yard has also advised people to use hands-free devices and to stick to well-lit streets at night.
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